Saturday 16th September 2018
It was the weekend after my first treatment and I had signed up to do the ‘Walk of Hope’ for Christies. Since I had decided to do it I had overcome a couple of hurdles along the way. The first and most heart wrenching was probably telling the children which I wrote about in What and when to tell the kids? . Myself and D signed up to the walk it was something in my mind I hope would help her to realise that unfortunately there are lots of people with cancer like me and that her support along the way would help me beat this. Ste and A would be waiting for us in the side-lines. The second obstacle was to try to get some sponsors without people finding out about my diagnosis.
I set up a just giving page with the hope I could at least raise enough money for the minimum requirement. Thankfully to the close family and friends we had told we managed to smash this and raised an amazing £425.00. My close friend Jo was also doing the walk with her daughter and mum they also had a family member who unfortunately lost their battle to cancer and it was their way of supporting them and of course me. Jo had just had an operation on her knee so I’m not sure a 10 km walk was the best idea for rehabilitation. This doesn’t surprise me though as most decisions made by myself and friends tended to be based on what we felt in our hearts, not with our heads (or maybe it was with our heads but we didn’t think like sensible rational people especially where decisions and alcohol were involved).
Ste drove us to Tatton Park along with A and Woody the whippet who unbeknownst to him was to be dragged round for moral support. We set off late in the afternoon unfortunately it was raining so we were prepared to get wet along the way. There was a mixture of young and old people there and a great atmosphere for some reason we ended up at the back of the pack (I can’t even remember why now). It was a good job we weren’t trying to break any speed records or we might have been slightly disappointed. I set off with my back pack on my bag with plenty of supplies of food and water. I was prepared for SAS training in the desert for a week never mind a 10 Km brisk walk in the park. See anyone that knows me will know that
- a) I drink like a fish when it comes to water and
- b) I have a slight phobia when it comes to sharing drinks or food.
The current criteria for me sharing a drink with you is that I must have given birth to you or I have given birth to one of your off spring and you have had to witness it (then it’s still debatable on some occasions).
I’m not sure where or when this phobia/pickiness came into my life but it’s been there for some time. You could say it was one of my little quirks and what forms part of me. We weren’t so privileged in life that we could buy things without sharing (I often had hand me down clothes, bikes and toys). I just became slightly obsessed as a child that if I shared a drink with someone I would get their germs. Fear and panic would hit me at the thought of sharing a drink. It didn’t just stop with drinks I was a pure joy at meal times as well often covering my plate so my dad couldn’t ‘breathe’ on my food. I also remember dreading school baking just in case some other child had poked or prodded any of my ingredients. It’s safe to say most things produced would be given to my parents and sister or thrown straight in the bin if some other child got their grubby mitts on it. There was no chance I would be risking any cross contamination. We laugh at it now but I remember the lengths and extremes I went to ‘avoid’ catching any unnecessary germs. See I was worried about catching germs but I wasn’t selfish or mean.
For example, later on in life I used to play netball a couple of times a week if someone asked for a sip of my drink and they had none I would take a big gulp first then give it to them and then not drink any of it afterwards no matter how thirsty I was. I would have rather been carried off for a mouth as dry as Gandhi’s flip flop and severe dehydration than share a mouthful of water and spit from one of my friends, sister or team mates. It came to a point where I used to bring two bottles of water to every game one for myself and one for the sharers!! It’s stupid I know and I didn’t think I was on any hygiene pedestal to anyone else it’s just that I had a number of fears where food and drink were involved this also made me a bit of a nightmare eating out for a number of years when I first met Ste.
I’m glad to say this fear/quirkiness of mine has become less prominent in my life now, largely when I decided to breed two little walking balls of bacteria. I have now proudly progressed to sharing drinks with them and Ste and can eat in most public places (with a food hygiene rating of 5 of course). See we all have our own little quirks or imperfections in life that make us slightly different from the next person. They can be obvious visible signs that other people notice straight away or less obvious ones in which you find out by chance. What makes these imperfections so great however is that our family, friends and love ones just accept them as part of who we are (if they don’t then maybe we should question why these people are in our lives). See my friends now as a whole not to ask for a taste of a drink from me or to even attempt a sharing platter when we eat out together for fear of getting the death stare!
In a way cancer is just another one of my ‘quirks’ which people around me have accepted and know that’s part of who I am. They know that sometimes I get tired or don’t feel well and they support and help with my current lifestyle choices with food and drink. The just accept it and love me all the same which is pretty amazing.
Walk of Hope
For the walk, I remained vigilant on the liquid front and prepared myself in case there were any ‘sharers’ in the group. This resulted in carrying an extremely heavy back pack but was worth the effort. We were well on the way into the walk when Woody decided it was his turn to deposit his contribution. Being the responsible dog owner that I am I had a few poo bags however what I hadn’t planned on doing was carrying a steaming bag of dog poo for the rest of the 7 or so km remaining. No, I hadn’t signed up for this at all. Luckily not long after this along the route there were a number of volunteers stood with bin bags of rubbish. One of the volunteers asked if we had any rubbish I apologised and said I’ve this (holding the steaming bag of dog poo) to which he smiled and said don’t worry and took the warm bag from me without hesitation.
This made me think whatever it is you’re doing you can always add value in some way or another especially in work and life. It might be that you’re not in your ideal job, you might think it literally is a pile of shit (this isn’t me by the way) but what’s worse, standing there moaning it’s a pile of shit and feeling worse about it all or taking on the pile of shit with a smile on your face knowing you’re adding value somewhere even if it is while you find the bed of roses. I try to do this at home, at work or when I volunteered. I might not always be doing what I want to be doing some days but I can either sit there and moan about it or try and add value which will make me feel better and hopefully help someone else along the way.
Out of the mouth of babes
Mid-point through the walk there was a rest point next to the lake where they handed out free treats and drinks of water (see I didn’t need the spare 10 gallons in my back pack after all). There was also the opportunity to write on stones then toss them into the lake to make a wish. Whilst I was having a drink D had gone to get a stone what she back with and had written was something that I’ll always carry with me. It was pure and straight from the heart. We walked to the edge of the lake and I watched her throw it in the water as far as she could and we made our wishes together (I don’t think you need to guess what they were). We all had some hugs and I was truly grateful for the unconditional love and friendship I had with me something I probably never realised I had before all this journey began.
We carried on for the rest of the journey it started to get quite dark. As we approached the finish line Jo’s mum and the kids had run on in front I can’t remember why I was at the back. I could see other people finishing and a wave of emotion rushed through me. I could see those that I loved the most in the world waiting for me, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me in life but I knew that they would be with me every step of the way. I took my back pack off and we later lit a candle of hope among the hundreds of other people there. It was our moment in which I realised listening to other people’s stories that all this was just the start but we did have hope and we were in it together.
Walk of Shame
When I first got diagnosed with cancer it all happened extremely quickly. I had gone from finding a lump in my neck to finding out I had stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma and having treatment in a matter of weeks (around 6 I think). It’s pretty amazing to think how quickly I was diagnosed and I am genuinely grateful for each and individual who was part of that process from the doctor that referred me to ENT to the surgeons, skin care nurse and oncologist I deal with today. Probably one of the hardest things to deal with though is the total mixed bag of emotions that comes with this disease.
I had to deal with various news, scans appointments on a daily basis while still trying to carry on as normal going to work every day, commuting, looking after the kids and dealing with the day too day issues that life generally brings. At the beginning beside close family and friends there were very few that knew about my situation. It came to a point with work where I was conscious of the number of days I was taking off due to the various appointments, blood tests and scans I had. I was conscious that they might think my work ethic wasn’t there so I made the decision to tell my line manager. It’s extremely hard telling someone face to face, I was honest and told them I didn’t really know the future held for me work wise. At that time, I didn’t really know a lot. After a couple of weeks a few more individuals from work knew more to explain my situation than anything. I can honestly say that they have been extremely supportive and understanding in all this from visiting me in hospital to sending me cards and just being overall supportive to my working arrangements. It turns out I didn’t have anything to panic about at all.
See at the beginning once I had told a few individuals I often wondered who knew what and what they thought of me. Did they think I was weak? Where people treating me differently? See normally I’m an extremely private person and don’t tend to discuss private matters with anyone. I sort of compare this feeling to that of when you’ve been extremely drunk the night before and can’t quite remember what went on but you know it isn’t good were you’re concerned. You’re not quite sure who knows but just as the dreaded beer fear kicks in you know at some point you have to do the inevitable ‘walk of shame’ either to meet up with people, escape from someone’s house, go to work after a drunken works doo or these days just to relive the whole dreaded moment again on social media thanks to your friends. It’s an awful feeling and worse when your one of life’s worriers like I am (or maybe used to be).
This is how I often felt whilst out in town or at work. I would talk to people wondering what do they know are they looking at me differently or talking to me because I am ill? I did my best to keep things under wraps and swore many individuals to strictest confidence. I got extremely upset a couple of times when a few people did find out indirectly. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them to know it was more that I wanted to tell them in person and in my own time. I didn’t want to upset people and sometimes telling people seemed to have that effect. For me the round about was going far too fast at times. I wanted it to stop and to get off to have time to process things.
I had sort of decided in my mind I wanted to have the 4 treatments and see how things went after Christmas when I was to get my results then hopefully tell people. This was the plan, however like most things in my life things didn’t go to plan. After my second treatment (which I will go into more detail) I became quite ill. I was admitted to hospital which at the time I hoped would be for the weekend and I could be back to work on the Tuesday all being well. It turns out I had quite a long stay in hospital (3 weeks). This was something I couldn’t quite keep under my hat but also made me realise I shouldn’t try to hide it either. I made a deal in hospital. I’m not sure who with more my subconscious really. I needed to help other people, I needed to share my experience to show other people that yes, it is scary but there are other people going through similar situations and we can all help each other and those that are helping us fight this terrible disease by being open to what we are going through.
This is where I made a deal to write this blog. I thought if people were to find out about my illness surely it was better to come from my own words than from hear say. Initially I was going to write it just for close family and friends but those that I showed it to told me I should share it to a wider audience. I have no idea why I chose a blog as I have read very little of them and no knowledge of how to create one. (that’s were Ste comes in handy with his IT skills).
Walk of Pride
Since writing this blog however I have gained so much. I braved the decision to post of it on social media and the response was overwhelming. I have had a number of people send me messages telling me how my words have helped them either understand how I am or help with family members close to them. I’ve had people who have said that it has helped them just dealing with general day to day life. I also realised that people finding out wasn’t all that bad. People want to know because they care and want to support you not just to gossip about you. Most people aren’t arseholes (ok there are a few exceptions to the rule but even then, there’s room for improvement). They want you to succeed and to beat this as much as you (well maybe not me I am pretty determined). People will come and chat to me at work and ask me how I’m doing so I let them know. I’ve had friends send me information regarding nutrition, new scientific research (all which I hope to add on here to help others) and just general offerings of help and support. Not only that I have managed to raise some money for Rosemere which have helped me so much in the past few months thanks to the people who have read my blog.
I don’t intend to stop here though this is just the beginning. I no longer walk in shame for fear of rumors about my illness. I walk with a sense of pride (think of the Bee Gees Stayin Alive and John Travolta and that’s me strutting down the corridor – well in my head anyway). I walk with pride because I know I have so many people backing my corner and each and every one play a part in helping me and others beat this cancer so let’s keep strutting our stuff and keep Stayin Alive.